Across the Services, we have witnessed what can be likened to a death of a thousand cuts in terms of not only our pay, but also our allowances. In comparison to other public sector employees, the Ministry of Defence must be delighted that there is no single unified voice to speak out in our interest.
It is also important to note that the one body who are meant to provide independent advice to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence on the remuneration and charges for the Services – the Armed Forces Pay Review Body – has been effectively gagged! The last chairman, Prof Alasdair Smith, was sacked as chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body after he called for servicemen to be given a rise to compensate for government defence cuts.
So what does Lieutenant General Andrew Gregory, the Chief of Defence Personnel, have to say?
“The NEM is not about hacking away at the package and reducing its worth, but whatever the NEM delivers must be within the current level of personnel spending. We need to be a smarter and more flexible Armed Forces in the unpredictable 21st century Defence landscape… So NEM is about using the money we get to fund the employment package to best effect and having policies that are fit for purpose.”
We note that there will not be any increase to the manpower budget, which raises two critical questions: firstly, will the current £10 billion of MOD funding invested in people every year be maintained when the MoD faces cuts elsewhere in its budget? And secondly what exisiting pay or allowance packages will be cut to fund the new affordable, agile and attractive package envisaged by the NEM? The myth-buster claims that the NEM team wishes to ensure that they are prioritising spending on the things that have the most significant effects on recruiting and retention. But how will this information be gleaned? Through an online survey (please fill it in to have your say - click here); a number of focus groups; further targeted surveys; and interviews. Without a recognised Armed Forces Federation, the value of these methods is debatable and if the overwhelming evidence is unpalatable (just like the former chairman of the AFPRB's comments), the Ministry will just ignore them
I am afraid that this first myth-buster has not busted any myths, but has merely raised a number of issues which we hope may be 'busted' in the next four instalments....